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Celebration paid homage to history and set tone for next 100 years
Boswell Regional Center in Magee, located on one of the state’s oldest campuses, celebrated 100 years of service to the state of Mississippi on Aug. 29, 2018. The centennial commemoration highlighted key moments in the campus’ history, including the opening of the Mississippi State Tuberculosis Sanatorium in 1918 and since 1976, as Boswell Regional Center, a Mississippi Department of Mental Health facility for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The center hosted the 100th celebration to honor the founders, recognize the dedication of former directors of both facilities, thank city and state leaders and allow past and former employees and individuals served by Boswell to join in a time of celebration.
When the Mississippi State Tuberculosis Sanatorium opened in 1918, an estimated 110,000 Americans were dying each year from tuberculosis. The tuberculosis mortality rates of Mississippi were among the highest in the nation. To combat the disease in his home state, Dr. Henry Boswell appeared before the Mississippi Legislature in 1916 to propose the building of a modern tuberculosis sanatorium on the outskirts of Magee. Lawmakers responded generously, as did the city of Magee, donating 200 acres of land and a $2,000 donation.
These actions set the stage for the opening of the first state-sponsored tuberculosis sanatorium in Mississippi. The opening of the sanatorium signified a life-saving response from the state to the increasingly deadly nature of the disease felt across the nation.
During the 58 years in which the Sanatorium treated patients, it was a sprawling, self-sufficient complex spread over 400 acres. The small village with its own zip code in Sanatorium, Miss., included a state-of-the-art surgical and treatment hospital, physicians and nurses’ dormitories, post office, power plant, staff residences, cafeteria, swimming pool and golf course. A full-service cattle, vegetable and dairy farm provided food for patients and residents.
From 1918 – 1976, the Sanatorium treated thousands of patients and housed over 3,000 children in its “Preventorium,” a dorm and school for children of TB patients and those at risk for contracting the disease.
As cases of TB began to decline, the Sanatorium closed in 1976 and was turned over to the Department of Mental Health. Since 1976, Boswell Regional Center has occupied the campus and offers a variety of services, including community living, crisis intervention, geriatric services and supported employment.
Family members representing the late Boswell, who served from 1917 – 1958 and Dr. Clyde Watkins, who served as director of the Sanatorium for 19 years following Boswell’s death, spoke at the celebration about the contributions made by the two men. They were the only two to serve as director during its 58-year time span. Others on the program included former directors of Boswell Regional Center, including Raymond Johnson and Steven Allen.
Current director Clint Ashley served as emcee and recounted the history of both the TB Sanatorium and Boswell Regional Center while giving special recognition to Dr. Boswell’s foresight and dedication in creating what was called “its own little world,” in Sanatorium, now part of the city of Magee.
Ashley applauded Boswell for planning and constructing a well-organized center, including many of the original buildings that are in use today. He quoted historical records detailing the obstacles faced by Dr. Boswell in almost single-handedly creating a modern TB Sanatorium in the early 1900’s that became known as a training ground for thoracic surgeons besides successfully treating thousands of TB patients and eradicating the disease in the state of Mississippi.
While many of the Sanatorium’s buildings on the original campus are used for administrative purposes and to provide services for individuals, a growing number of Boswell’s individuals live and work independently in the city of Magee and surrounding counties. Many of them rent their own homes and apartments and several work part-time at area businesses.
At the culmination of the program, a framed copy of Senate Resolution 600 drafted by State Sen. Chris Caughman in the 2018 legislative session honoring the Sanatorium and Boswell Regional Center on the 100th anniversary and applauding the City of Magee for its role in the founding were presented to Ashley and Magee Mayor Dale Berry. Caughman was originally scheduled to make the presentations but was unable to attend due to the current special legislative session.
BOSWELL RESOLUTION – Steven Allen, left, former director of Boswell Regional Center and now deputy director of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, presented a framed copy of Senate Concurrent Resolution 600 to Magee Mayor Dale Berry at the 100th celebration of the Sanatorium and Boswell. The resolution was drafted by State Sen. Chris Caughman in honor of the 100th anniversary and the city’s donation of 200 acres to create the Sanatorium. Sen. Caughman was unable to attend the ceremony as scheduled due to the special legislative session.
A special photo area made from old doors from the MS TB Sanatorium and Boswell Regional Center was part of the décor at the 100th anniversary celebration. Pictured are, from left: Clint Ashley, director of Boswell, Diana Mikula, director of Mississippi Department of Mental Health and Steven Allen, deputy director of DMH.
The two remaining children of Dr. Henry Boswell, Barbara Boswell Stauss, left, and Peggy Boswell Johnson, right, both residents of Jackson, were served the first piece of the 100th birthday cake at the culmination of the celebration. Both grew up on the grounds of the Sanatorium and have fond memories of life at “The San.” Other Boswell family members attended the celebration, including grandson Kent Dear, who made remarks on behalf of the family.
Former directors of Boswell Regional Center and family members of the Sanatorium directors were recognized at the 100th celebration. Pictured from left are former Boswell directors Steven Allen and Raymond Johnson with current director Clint Ashley, right.
Barbara Boswell Stauss, center, daughter of Dr. Henry Boswell, founder of the MS TB Sanatorium, enjoyed viewing old photos of her father, pictured far left, on the memory table at the 100th celebration, and visiting with Boswell director Clint Ashley, far right. Her daughter is pictured on the left. A photograph of Dr. Boswell is on the table to the left of the group.
A memory table containing photos of the first director, Dr. Henry Boswell, and others who made a difference at the TB Sanatorium and Boswell Regional Center were displayed at the 100th celebration.
A photo display honoring the 10 directors of the TB Sanatorium and later, Boswell Regional Center, listed their years of service.